Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘The ambulance came and had to do the Jaws of Life to get me out of the car.’


“I went for a weekend away with my friends to Rochester to stay at a friend’s house and have a home-cooked meal. I went to Buffalo State. When we were driving back to Buffalo, I was in the backseat of the car on the right side. An 18-wheeler tractor-trailer ran a red light and T-boned right where I was sitting. The ambulance came and had to do the Jaws of Life to get me out of the car. I was pronounced dead at the scene. I was in a coma for a month. This happened Feb. 12, 2010, and I woke up March 11 [2010].

“My mom was there the day I woke up. I don’t remember it. She said I was able to blow a kiss and track her around the room with my eyes. But I don’t remember waking up. I only remember waking up when I got to Mount Sinai Hospital. They had to take me on a medical jet to New York City from Rochester, and one of the guys on the plane was an EMT that was at the scene of the accident. He thought I died.

“I get to Mount Sinai, and I was there for about two months and started all my therapies. I was still comatose. I had a lot of surgeries. I was in the hospital for 10 months straight. I got out of the hospital and did outpatient therapy.

“I decided to go back to school. Everyone said I wouldn’t be able to do it because of my brain injury. Of course, I pick Hofstra University, which is not the easiest one. I went there and took classes part time. It took me five years to graduate in 2016. In 2017 I got a job, and I work as a part-time receptionist now. My whole life changed. On top of that, two years ago, I had thyroid cancer.”

People don’t know how to approach people with disabilities or how to help them.

“It was hard because I always was independent growing up. I was also young. I was only 20, 21. All my friends were going out and doing things, and I couldn’t’ do any of that. I was in the hospital. I didn’t think my life was done. That was not the end for me.

“I worked really hard in therapy. I still go to therapy, and I walk with a walker because my balance isn’t good. But from where I was then to now is completely different. It was insanely hard to get to this place. When you’re going through it, you’re so confused. Even today, I still get days like, ‘Why did this happen?’ I just try to push as much as I can.

“I had to relearn everything — talking, eating, things you take it for granted. I’m a fall risk, meaning I could fall at any time. And when I fall, it’s hard for me to get up. So I’m usually not alone. I had a left temporal lobe injury, but I had a broken skull, so it was called a global brain injury. It takes time to recover from a brain injury; your whole life is going to be recovery after it.

“I go to therapy. We talk about a lot of things that have happened in the past. I have PTSD from it and a lot of anxiety from the accident. I don’t drive anymore. If I’m in the car and a big truck comes by, years ago I would have a mental breakdown. But now I get a little nervous; but it’s better. I work on it through therapy. I have a good support system at home.

“I feel bad because when I was younger and would see someone with a disability, and you don’t try to get to know them. Because I have one now, there’s a lot to know about. People don’t know how to approach people with disabilities or how to help them.”

I never thought I could meet someone that would not look at me differently because I was disabled.

“After my accident, I kept saying I’m never going to meet someone. It was really hard for me to make friends. Young guys don’t want to take the time to understand someone. They see the walker, and they want to run away. That’s not the normal view of young girls. I met Sean five and a half years ago. I told him, ‘I want to let you know that I do walk with a walker, and I was in a major accident. I might need help getting up and down the steps. Just make sure I don’t fall.’ And he’s like, ‘OK, no problem.’

“When Sean picked me up, my parents grilled him. They were like, ‘Where are you going?’ They took down his license plate. When he took me home, after our first date, he called me back. I was like, ‘What? He’s calling me back?’ We started dating, and now we’ve been dating since 2017. We got engaged last year and now we’re getting married at the aquarium in Riverhead. I never thought I could meet someone that would not look at me differently because I was disabled.

“Since I went through all of this, and diagnosed with cancer two years ago, me and Sean went through that whole thing during COVID. The fact that someone stood by my side throughout this whole thing — a lot of people would just run away — it’s nice to find someone like that.

“I never thought that I was going to be able to settle down with someone. I’m getting married. I have a family, I have a house, I have a job. Everything’s falling into place. It just takes time.

“I hope my story helps other people. Who knows? Maybe 10 other people in Long Island have a brain injury and they’re young and they’re struggling, they don’t have an outlet to reach out to other people. When I was going through it, there was no one my age. How do I talk about the problems I’m having with an 80-year-old? If I could help other people around my age, they’d feel a lot better.”

Interviewed by Tracey Cheek